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Zambian children praying before eating
LAST UPDATED: 9 January 2024

Facts about Lent

Here’s why you should give something up for Lent

With Lent just around the corner, you might be finding yourself wondering, “what is the point of Lent?” or “what should I give up for Lent?”

From why you should try giving something up to how you can be more generous during the period, in this article, we’re uncovering the most important Lent facts.

When is Lent 2024?

In 2024, Lent starts on 14 February and finishes on 28 March. Each year, the holiday takes place in the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday and is an observed period of fasting, giving and prayer.

Lent falls on different dates each year, and Christians in different church traditions around the world observe Lent slightly differently. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week, featuring days including Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and it is the week leading up to Easter; this is a time when we celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Silhouette of a cross in front of scenic mountains

What is the meaning and purpose of Lent?

For many Christians, Lent is a time when they make space to pray, read the Bible and reflect on God’s love. Traditionally, Lent was a period of fasting from certain foods like eggs and red meat, while others may give up something to focus on their relationship with God. It’s a time of preparation, self-reflection, and an opportunity to grow in faith.

READ MORE: Encouraging bible verses

Where the word Lent comes from

Lent doesn’t have anything to do with fasting or giving things up. The word ‘Lent’ has Germanic roots, referring to the lengthening of days or springtime. It has been used to signify new life and renewal.

Why is Lent 40 days?

40 is a significant number to many Christians. In the New Testament, Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness (Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13). Mark tells us that Jesus was tempted by Satan, while Matthew and Luke share details of Jesus going without food for 40 days.

After fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” - Matthew 4:2-4 NIV.

There are numerous other occasions in the Bible that reference the number 40. Noah waited 40 days for his ark to float. And Moses, along with his followers, travelled through the wilderness for 40 years before reaching the Promised Land.

After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him... - Matthew 4:2-4 NIV

Lent was originally 36 days

Originally, Lent lasted for 36 days (excluding Sundays). Now, the 40 days of Lent are observed from Ash Wednesday to Easter, thought to remind Christians of the time Jesus spent in the wilderness.

But you should know that Sundays aren’t included in the 40 days, so technically, Lent lasts 46 days!

What can you give up for Lent?

Many people choose to give up luxuries or comforts, whether it’s giving up TV, steering clear of fast food or ditching social media. Doing this is a reminder of Jesus in the desert, while also freeing up time to spend in prayer, read the Bible and reflect on God’s love, helping us grow closer to God.

Traditionally, people gave up meat, fish, eggs, wine, oil, butter and other dairy products for Lent. That’s why Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, falls the day before Lent starts (13 February 2024). This is the last day many Christians could eat the rich and tasty foods they are giving up for Lent, and pancakes were a great way to use up their supply of eggs, milk and butter.

Zambian children praying before eating
Lent is a time to pray, read the Bible and grow closer to God

How to be generous during Lent

Whilst Lent is a time for remembering Jesus’ suffering, it’s also a time in which many Christians try to reflect Jesus’ teachings. In early traditions, Almsgiving was an important pillar of Lent – this means donating to people living in poverty.

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” - Proverbs 11:25 NIV.

As Christians, we’re called to give generously. In the New Testament, God gave us his only son because he loves us, and that Son died on a cross for us. It sets an example, showing us that generosity should be sacrificial.

Could you give up your daily coffee, weekly takeaway, or sweet treats for Lent? Whatever you decide to give up, you might be surprised at the money you save and how it can be used to do good.

Young girl sat with legs crossed smiling and holding chicken eggs
Vinet delights in helping her parents collect eggs from the chickens and add them into their meals

The difference your lent savings can make

Although the money you save during the 40 days of Lent shouldn’t be the motivation behind your fasting, it is another positive reason to do it. The money you would have spent on the thing you’ve fasted from can be donated to charity as part of your Lenten giving, and with our Easter charity gifts, you’ll be able to decide precisely how your money is spent.

Are you giving up sweet treats? By giving up one large chocolate bar a week during Lent, you’ll save £9.42. This might not seem like a remarkable amount to donate, but through World Vision's charity gifts, this can transform into a football or a mosquito net. For only £8, give the gift of a football and bring smiles to children who may have never kicked an actual football. Or, for the same price, you could buy a mosquito net to help protect a child from the deadliest creature in the world.

Zambian family collecting water from a hand pump
Vinet’s family received the gift of clean and safe water when a water pump was installed by World Vision

If you are trying to forgo alcohol for Lent, even occasional drinkers can make a difference with their savings. By giving up only one bottle of rosé wine a week, you can save £38.40 over the 40 days. With this, you’ll be able to buy a two-gift bundle and donate a goat and a chicken, helping a family create an income by selling their produce or offspring.

Is it weekly takeaways that really appeal? By giving up fish and chips for the six weeks of Lent, you’ll be able to save £52.50. With this saving, you’ll have enough to gift a mealtime bundle which contains a kitchen garden starter kit to one family, chickens to another and a month of vital food rations for a child. Just by forgoing a fish and chip dinner, you’ll be helping two families and a vulnerable child.

Other ways to do good during Lent

For over 70 years, World Vision has been transforming vulnerable children’s lives. As a Christian charity, our aim is to help children across the globe who need it the most. We work with communities to tackle poverty at its roots and support families affected by natural disasters or conflict.

If you’re not able to make a children's charity donation during the period of Lent, why not join us in praying for those living in poverty? Prayer is a great way to help children in some of the world's toughest places. Together, we can build them a brighter future.

Do you need inspiration for your prayers and reflections on the great things God is doing in your life? Download your free prayer journal, where you'll find meaningful and guided prayers to deepen your relationship with God.

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